City Council news and notes

November 3, 2017
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Surviving Spouse Benefits

The City Council voted unanimously on Oct. 25 to pass Councilor Michael Flaherty’s home-rule petition to reinstate the ability of spouses of City of Boston employees who died in the line of duty and later remarried to receive City of Boston health insurance.

In 2000, the legislature repealed part of the “remarriage penalty” allowing those spouses who remarried to receive pension benefits, but not insurance benefits. This home rule petition would remove the “remarriage penalty.” It now goes to the State House for state legislative approval.

Community Preservation Act:

The City Council voted unanimously on Oct. 25 to suspend and pass a technical amendment to the Community Preservation Committee Ordinance to adjust the legal timelines for the Council to select four committee members.

The original ordinance required that nominations be finalized within 90 days of passage (which would run up in the first week of November), instead of within 90 days of the relevant committee being formed.

In order to line up those timelines and give the City Council’s CPA committee 90 days to complete their work as specified by the Council order we later passed the amendment. This will give the City Council until December to vote on committee members and allows for fuller outreach and promotion of the opportunity to residents.

Wireless Antennas:

City Councilor Michael Flaherty called for a hearing at the City Council hearing on October 25, to discuss the increasing amount of small antennas being installed across the city on streetlights and on tops and sides of buildings, causing an unpleasant eyesore.

“I am mindful that we need to make constant infrastructure improvements and repairs particularly for cell communications,” said Flaherty. “But the small cells continue to be placed around the city.”

He said his office receives numerous phone calls from residents saying that another antenna has been placed on a light pole in front of their house or down the corner.

“It’s happening citywide and there’s no awareness,” said Flaherty.

Flaherty said that the City needs to find out if the wireless companies have different designs and models that could better fit within the aesthetic of the neighborhoods.

“None of this is being discussed publicly,” said Flaherty. “Whose making these decisions and why? Can we give folks a little more awareness and give them say to suggest a street that might be a bit more healthier?”

The matter was sent to the Committee on City and Neighborhood Services and Veteran Affairs. A hearing date has yet to be set.

Bill Linehan’s last meeting

District 2 City Councilor Bill Linehan submitted a letter of resignation after 43 years of service to the City. Mayor Martin Walsh joined the City Council on Oct. 18 to present Councilor Linehan with a silver Revere Bowl and in line with the Council tradition; Michelle Wu presented him with a crystal gavel given to outgoing councilors who have served as council president.

Right to Charge

 The City Council voted unanimously on Oct. 18 to pass the home rule petition that would codify the right of condominium and homeowners to install personal electric vehicle charging stations in or near the dedicated parking spots.

In Boston, there are multi-family homes that have been converted to condos, sometimes with just two or three condos in the association, and the governing documents require unanimous consent for any changes to the property. That means one owner could prevent another from switching to an electric vehicle.

City Council President Michelle Wu stated that 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation and that she would like to make it possible for a resident in any living situation to be able to switch from gasoline-powered vehicles to electric vehicles.

Wu would also like to set the stage for charging infrastructure now since the costs of electric vehicles are quickly becoming more affordable.

The law department expressed concerns that the City would be more vulnerable to litigation by passing this in the form of an ordinance rather than a home-rule petition.

Although Wu is generally skeptical of filing home-rule petitions since the City has no control over the pace and likelihood of state approvals, she has already spoken with state colleagues who are optimistic about passage on a reasonable timeline.

Procurement Reform

City Council President Michelle Wu and At-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley introduced an ordinance on Oct. 18 to amend the City of Boston’s procurement processes for contracting with private businesses for goods and services in order to encourage greater meaningful engagement with women and minority-owned business enterprises (WMBEs).

The goal is to align the City’s spending with the goals of addressing income inequality by giving WMBEs a fairer shot at winning City of Boston contracts.

The ordinance will codify the City’s responsibility to create a supplier diversity program, conduct active outreach to WMBEs regarding City needs and contracting processes, and requires solicitation of bids from at least one WBE and least one MBE for contracts under $25,000.

The ordinance was assigned to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.

Private Corporation Street Closures

 Councilor Josh Zakim filed a hearing order on Oct. 18 to examine the use of public ways by private corporations. Particularly in the Back Bay and the South End, private corporations (e.g. movie and television productions companies) have been closing down public streets, taking both metered and resident parking spots without public process or community notification.

This matter was assigned to the Committee on City & Neighborhood Services and Veterans Affairs for a hearing.

Back Bay/ South End Gas Pipeline

The City Council voted on Oct. 18 to adopt the resolution filed by Councilors Josh Zakim and Mat O’Malley urging more deliberation and public process from the Public Improvement Commission (PIC) before finalizing approvals of a natural gas distribution pipeline that will run from Back Bay into Fenway.

The sponsors echoed community concerns that building more fossil fuel infrastructure is counterproductive to the City’s efforts to support renewable energy.

The PIC met on this issue on Oct. 19 at City Hall.

 

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